The U.S. economy would need to add 5.7 million jobs in order to return to pre-recession employment levels, according to the latest report from the Hamilton Project.

Nominally, as measured by the number of payroll jobs, the economy surpassed pre-recession employment in May 2014. However, the report notes, “the payroll job count deficit does not represent the total number of jobs needed to bring the economy back to pre-recession levels because the population and potential labor force have continued to grow.”

After including labor force growth, the report concludes that the current jobs gap is only about half what it was at its lowest point, in February 2010.

Because the labor force participation rate fell during the recession, the analysis uses employment-to-population ratios from 2007 as a baseline from which to determine the current potential labor force. The purpose of this baseline, the report explains, is “to account for both population growth and the aging of the population in determining the number of jobs that must be created for the labor market to be in the same position as it was before the recession began.”

The report goes on to project how long it will take the economy to reach pre-recession employment levels based on the pace of the current recovery.

At a rate of 176,000 jobs per month, the average rate of job growth since the recovery began in March 2010, the report estimates it would take until June 2018 to close the gap fully. However, over the last 12 months, the average rate of job growth has been about 214,000 per month, which would be sufficient to close the gap by August 2017. (RELATED: 5 Creative Ideas to Stimulate Job Growth)

The report acknowledges that “potential employment can change due to a variety of factors, including immigration, demographics, labor force participation by older workers, and decisions by working-age individuals about whether to participate in the labor force.”

Nonetheless, the authors maintain that their approach allows them to “account for many of the factors that could be predicted to change before the recession,” and therefore presents an accurate picture of how the recession affected employment levels.

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